tv Battlefield Tour CSPAN July 12, 2014 10:00pm-10:41pm EDT
objects to the president's claim of special privilege over his office recordings. >> the president may be right in the way he reads the constitution. but he may also be wrong. if he is as there is no one than the president of coors who is -- the president of coors who is free to -- of course who is free to pursue and what becomes of our constitutional form of government. >> watergate, 40 years later. >> each with, american week tv, the civil war marks the 150th anniversary of the conflict by bringing you lectures, discussions, and battlefield visits. 150 years ago in july of 1864, a confederate army of about 12,000
under the command of general early nearly invaded washington, d.c. next, marc leepson takes us on a tour of battlefields to tell the story of the battle of monocacy, where the confederates were delayed by union forces in their approach to the capital, and the battle of fort stevens, where general early probed the defenses of the heavily fortified city before deciding to turn back. , the bigger picture of what the war. this was just after the bloodiest six weeks of the civil war. the battle of the wilderness. the spotsylvania courthouse. union casualties, about 40,000. there was war especially in the north. but general grant was in charge
now and had been in charge since february and was determined that this was his grand plan to end the war. after wilderness, he had petersburg surrounded. his idea, his plan was to choke robert e lee and force them to come out and fight what he thought would be the battle that would end the war. we knew this as well. lee came up with a plan of his own which he took an entire core of troops and he took them outside the defenses of washington on a bold plan, a four-part plan that he hoped would mess up general grant's grand plan to end the war. the first plan was to kick the
forces out of the shenandoah valley. lee's biggest problem was supplied, including food and most of the food came from the shenandoah valley. these forces under general hunter had taken over just about the entire shenandoah valley. the second part of the plan was "to threaten washington, d.c." the third part of the plan was the free confederate prisoners at the lookout prison camp was -- which was on the very tip of the southern maryland. i think the plan, the part lee considered the most important was to force grant to take grant outside of petersburg. in the early morning hours of july 15, 12,000 troops left at the defense of richmond. they marched 70 miles to charlottesville, virginia. they got on trains and were of -- and arrived in lynchburg on june 17.
on june 18, came the battle of lynchburg. hunter fled over the mountains to now west virginia. early thought about chasing him but they didn't but he took one look and it was clear this was big. he marched his men down the valley -- we mean north because of the way the river flows. they marched down the valley. they were not very well supplied. a third of the men didn't have shoes. they waited two days along the route for a shipment of shoes. they got up to harpers ferry in martinsburg where the union under general siegel, and other
dimbulb of union generals, he was a political general. he was a german immigrant. he was the one that had not very good experiences at newmarket on may 15 where he outnumbered the confederate troops and he lost. he was unofficially known as the flying dutchman. he fled martinsburg and harpers ferry when early forces came in and they had a nice fourth of july, eating all the yankees' food and drinking whatever beverages they found. the next day on july 5, they crossed over the potomac river. this was the third invasion of the north. gettysburg in 1863 into what would become the file -- battle. he fled with his troops of the maryland heights which was on the other side of the river from harpers ferry.
they were pretty well embedded up there. early thought about going up there, but he didn't. he made a right turn and was 50 miles from washington. they did rest for a couple of days in maryland near antietam. he headed towards washington. early was quite a character to say the least. he came from a prominent family in virginia. he went to west point but not to be a military man -- it was a good education of the time. he didn take part in the mexican war but he didn't see any action. he was a member of the virginia general assembly for one term. he was a lawyer. before the war started, he was part of the virginia secession. he became one of the most ardent confederates of diehards.
he quickly gained a reputation of being an aggressive leader. he was in all the battles of the eastern theater. he was kind of a cantankerous guy. he was a hard-drinking, tobacco chewing -- he was famous for his cursing. he hated women. he was just not a pleasant guy to be around. he didn't get along with his fellow officers, generals. the men sort of loved him and hated him. lee liked early. lee called him "my bad old man," even though lee was earlier than -- older than early. lee liked him because he was aggressive. it is interesting that he would admire early so much because lee's personality was 180 degrees opposite. he was a god-fearing man,
doesn't curse, respected women. lee said war is so horrible otherwise men would love it. compared to early, who he probably would've said what ever wanted to be said. he was one of the most aggressive southern generals. it is interesting because of what happened later in washington. washington was just across the river from virginia, 90 miles from the richmond. troops were sent down into washington and then after the battle 35 miles washington, they started building a series of forts and fortification that by the time a couple years later, washington had an interconnected series of forts.
they were like a beltway. they went across the potomac because remember the union took over alexandria and other parts of northern virginia. only one of those forts exist today in alexandria. that is where the end of my story happens outside of fort stevens. these forts were very well-built. they were connected by fortification. they were designed to be manned by about 35,000 troops. we are in the summer of 1864 now. just about every able-bodied troop is outside richmond in the eastern theater. we don't know the exact number but we think only about 10,000 troops were on the barricade at washington. who were these 10,000 troops? they were members of what was called the veteran's reserve corps.
they had just changed their name before that. before that it was known as the invalid corps. who wants to be known as the invalid. it is basically one giant hospital during the last years of the war. as troops got better but couldn't go back to the field, they were given these uniforms and became members of the veteran reserve corps. that is who was defending washington, d.c. when jubal early came here to monacasy on july 9. this is not a good example of union high leadership. first of all, union intelligence was abysmal throughout the war and was not good here. the union did not know that lee
took an entire corps of troops leaving richmond. they didn't know until july 5 when across the potomac river and about 50 miles from washington. then you had a little bit of panic going on. especially when the word got out that early was heading towards washington or maybe baltimore. you didn't let people know because here at monocacy it is east-south transportation connection. there was a georgetown pike and it goes directly towards washington. today it is called the urbana pike. it becomes the rockville pike and becomes wisconsin avenue. it goes right into washington. up the river, we have the older national pike goes astray to baltimore. we have the railroad line which
comes straight down here from baltimore and the spur the go straight to frederick. you have it east-west, south-north. there was panic in the streets in baltimore and washington when they heard. rumors started flying. early at about 14,000 troops and the rumors were he had 35,000 troops. washington, the command structure was fragmented. there were a lot of generals. general halleck who the army chief of staff at one point said we need privates here to get to the barricades. that was the situation in washington. back down in richmond, grant, when he learned what was happening here, he did not want
to send troops to richmond. you can read the telegrams between washington and his headquarters at city point outside of richmond. you can read the memoirs of the people who were on a staff. grant would not send troops -- finally, he gave in at the last minute and sent two regiments of the sixth corps. they marched out the city point. they got on the steamers and went down the james river up the baltimore harbor. they went to camden station. they got there and arrive here at 1:00 in the morning on july 9, 1864. union intelligence was not very good but one man figured out who
the intelligence and what was happening. that was lew wallace. that was the other main character of this story. he was from indiana, a prominent family. he did serve in the mexican war as a 19-year-old lieutenant but had no military experience other than that. he did have a unit in indiana before the war. those were the drill teams that dressed up in color for uniforms. they became the 11th indiana. he scored an early victory at romney, west virginia. when the union was looking for heroes. the union press played him up really big and became a general. that was his high point. his low point happened at the battle of shiloh with his regiment got lost the first night. probably not his fault. it was rough terrain, bad weather, dark.
grant and halleck were very upset with wallace. he did fight the second day but they shoved him aside after that. his job at this point in the war was to be commander of the union middle atlantic department which was -- he was military governor of baltimore. reading the same intelligence that the union high command guy didn't do anything. the other thing that helped him was the head of the b&o railroad had his network of intelligence who were the station masters all along the railroad. they're sending telegrams. wallace picked up on this and on his own -- do not forget, he was in hot water -- no orders. he gathered up 2800 men.
he came down to the westernmost point of his jurisdiction which is right here. he set up on the eastern bank of the monocacy river. after the war, lew wallace became a novelist. he wrote the second-most popular novel -- ben-hur. he wrote a memoir. it was really quite refreshing compared to the drive memoirs -- dry memoirs. here you have the lew wallace writes the memoirs 30 years after the fact. when wallace says they arrive here and they lit their campfires, he would say something like the sky gave way to her brilliant blue orange sun as we made our way down at the
junction with campfire smoke curled up. that was great. you had balance what he says in his memoir with the telegrams from the battlefield. wallace had a way of making himself sound really good. he did a very brave thing. you cannot take them away from that. as he said in the book, i believe and i think the judgment of history is what wallace did here did save washington, d.c. this battle took place on july 9, 1864. it is november 2, 2007 and a beautiful fall day. one thing to keep in mind that it was very hot. they didn't have from thermometers.
but it had to be in the mid to upper 90's and very humid. he set up headquarters in a very good side which was on the east bank of the river and high ground. he could overlook the entire battlefield and he was on the other side of the river which made it difficult for to be attacked. who were these 2800 men? they joined just for 100 days. none of them had ever fired a weapon in anger before. it was a pretty gutsy thing. here is the intelligence saying troops as many as 75,000 are heading your way and he sets up a defense right here with 2800 inexperienced troops. he'ss also begging washington to send in more troops. -- he is also begging washington to send him more troops which eventually happened. wallace had about 6500 troops, including experienced men. he knew what to do with them.
we will talk about what happened when the battle started. we are at the very edge of the battlefield and this monument was dedicated at the 50th anniversary of the battle. to honor the confederates who died here. there about 800. at route 355, it runs to the battlefield as it did before. what didn't go through the battlefield was interstate 270 which is -- i think you can see it right over there at the edge of the horizon. this is where the confederate artillery was during the battle. it is unfortunate that the interstate highway runs through this entire battlefield. i think they have done a terrific job separating it.
they have a lot of the farm field but it is a difficult vision because it took place in seven different places. also the interstate highway goes right through it. this is the actual junction itself. you can see it down there. the bridge on route 355 was the old covered bridge over the junction. this is where some of the most brutal fighting of the battle took place later on in the day when a group of vermont soldiers took a stand against some of early's top troops. they were in a very good strategic point. the confederates came this way and the vermont soldiers -- the were not many of them. they held off of the regiment of early troops for hours before they finally had to flee.
they had to flee back up the railroad tracks and over the old railroad bridge is that you cannot see from here. the railroad bridge did not have a bed. it had railroad ties and these soldiers were being fired upon by these confederates had to run across a railroad with the water 40 feet below. a dramatic point of the battle. two vermont soldiers received the medal of honor further -- for their actions that day. we our standing were the over manned vermont men were and where they held off the confederates. the old train station was right behind us over here.
and, in fact, these of the tracks the troops came down from baltimore. anyway, after the vermonters could not take it anymore, they fled down the track around the bend to the old railroad bridge over there. what you see in the back behind it which has been restored by the national park service to make it look how it looked during the battle. this is the battle portion of the battle of monocacy. you were hearing interstate 270 in the background. what was here then was cornfields and wheatfields. they were crisscrossed by farm fences.
it was not an ideal place to have a battle. behind me, general mccausland from louisiana, it was part of john brown gordon's brigade. they came right behind me and they got off their horses because i guess the conditions in the field. they dismount in calgary and they charged the union through the farm fields. they didn't know the six corps men were waiting for them and it was carnage. they had to retreat. most of gordon's brigade was way back where we first started where the artillery was. here is an important thing you need to keep in mind -- general early did not want to fight a battle here. he wanted to invade washington which was only 40 miles away right now. wallace forced him and blocked
them along the river. early held as many troops as back as he could. he wasn't even here yet -- he was in frederick trying to get money. the charge does not work and they flee back here. they charge again and then gordon brings all his troops here and this is where the most fighting of the battle took place. gordon called it the sharpest fight and he was in antietam. he was at the spotsylvania courthouse. the river ran red with blood. when it was over, they were about 1300 union casualties, killed, wounded, and captured and about 800 confederates killed and wounded. most of this took place here in the next farm over. the family hid in the basement during the fight.
a six-year-old boy saw everything that happened. he wrote a book about it later and it is one of the best descriptions about what happened in this battle. later in life, glen worthington was one of the people who influenced congress to set aside this land to be a national battlefield. back to the battle itself -- of course, early prevailed. he outnumbered. wallace retreated at about 4:00 and went up towards baltimore. it was a very hot day. he let his men rest on the battlefield that night and they buried their dead, took care of their wounded. the next morning on july 10, 1864, they started their march towards washington, d.c.
it only took us about an hour to get here. i will pick up the story. early -- they spent that night on the battlefield and july 10 they've marched as far as rockville. it was about 10 or 15 miles. it was very hot. they were tired and had been marching since june 13. they camped in rockville and gaithersburg which are very busy suburbs now. early try to get some money from the city fathers of rockville. there were calvaries skirmishing around there. the event some units of washington who came out.
the next morning, early who was one of those generals who was out leading the men, made it here. right to the outskirts of fort stevens. we are at the very top of the diamond in the northwest portion of washington. at about noontime, early was at the gates of fort stevens right out here. he had the capitol dome in his sites at noontime. what did he see? he saw as very impressive series of forts. and it was connected to several other forts around here. it looked impregnable and he saw troops. he didn't know these were 100 days men. the call went out for civilians to come out and help man the barricades. you had clerks from the state department, men from the quartermasters. when you read about descriptions about who was at the fort, the word motley comes up. early did not know this. his men were strung out way
along back on the georgetown pike -- the 7th street pike. they had cut off the georgetown pike which is now beers mill road and wheaton, maryland. it comes right off the edge of fort stevens. early decided not to invade. early being early, he caused the trouble. there was fighting going on with artillery and skirmishes. this was all -- we are now in the city of washington, d.c. it is not urban washington but it is definitely the city. back then, this was all farms. this was hardly considered part of washington, d.c. because washington was down there were the white house is in downtown in georgetown. they cleared trees out for firing outside fort stevens but this was all farmland.
people from washington came out to see what all the excitement was about, including president lincoln. fort stevens was -- might have been the most expensive of the defenses in washington. there were 67 of them. not all of them were as expensive as this one. there was a magazine. it was enclosed on all of the sides. some of them were just pointing out towards the defenses. they were built up very heavily and they were all connected. fort stevens was the gate to washington at the very tip of the northern diamond. you think of washington shaped like a diamond. it was heavily defended were heavily fortified, rather. this is more or less reconstructed.
it is what it looks like on july 11, 1864 with early as artillery and the union artillery and skirmishing going on and the citizens of washington coming to see what it was all about. that included president lincoln. the plaque that you see says lincoln under fire at fort stevens. it also happened on july 11. july 11, lincoln was here. this represents the only time in american history where a sitting u.s. president came under fire in a shooting war right here on this very spot. the confederate sharpshooters were out there. this is all farmland. it was clear. back there, is the walter reed medical center.
on the grounds, there is a tree with a plaque on it that supposedly says this is where confederate sharpshooters shot at lincoln. the same thing happened on the second day. that is what that plaque represents. a union surgeon by the name of crawford was standing next to lincoln, probably right here, and was shot in the leg. that is when lincoln was ordered down. lincoln, six feet four and his hat made a pretty tempting target. the legend has grown up that it was holmes that told lincoln to get down, you fool and instantly regretted saying it. i have a whole chapter in the book about that incident. i came to the conclusion that that was an impossible story. it wasn't published until 1928.
supposedly, holmes had been telling it privately but you always had to be suspicious about something that comes out well after the fact. i have gone back to letters that were written at the time and memoirs. yes, lincoln did stand here and yes, and someone did yell at him to come down. more than likely it was general horatio wright. he didn't say get down, you fool. it is an interesting story and not true. early is at the gates over here outside fort stevens. with the capitol dome in his sights. grant, the day before, finally sent the rest of the corps along with the 19th corps which was down in new orleans. instead, they stayed on the
train and went to city point. they got on ships up the potomac river this time. they got off at the old 6th street. citizens were there to greet them, including president lincoln, they gave them a icewater, sandwiches. they cheered because people were panicking when they heard the confederates were out at the gate. they then marched up georgia avenue. they went to the smithsonian. they got out here in the mid afternoon on july 11 and they took part in the fighting that happened. that fighting went into the night. after that, early held a council of war out in silver spring which is a couple of miles from here at the blair -- at the
mention of -- it is a mansion called the silver spring. it was the blair mansion. they were a very prominent family. they were out of town. they had gone fishing in pennsylvania. early held a council of war that night with his generals. john breckenridge was the former vice president of the united states with james buchanan. he was a confederate general. he was in that house before and knew where the wine cellar was so he and his men drank up the wine. they decided the next morning that they would come here bright and early and decide whether or not to attack. they did that. this time, early could say the sixth corps was here so he did not invade. there was more fighting. there was a skirmishing,
artillery exchanges. men were killed. there were 300 union casualties and we will go to the cemetery a little later. we don't know officially how many confederate dead and wounded. it had to be that many if not more. that fighting went on all night on july 12. when the union troops got up in the morning of july 13, they looked out here and early's army was gone. he went back through my gum or a county -- he went back through montgomery county. if anyone has been there, it is a ferry boat goes across the potomac and the name is the early. that is where my story ends. a month after early had left richmond to go on this four-part mission. this is georgia avenue which is
to be known as the 7th street pike which is the route early came down. two years after the war, the cemetery was built. it is the second smallest national cemetery. 40 union soldiers are buried in graves behind me in the circle. these are monuments to some of the uniits that served at the battle of support -- of fort stevens. i would easily estimated that hundreds of thousands of people drive by every year and do not even notice. we are just off georgia avenue and there is only a small sign and it is the final resting place for 40 union soldiers killed during fighting here in washington, d.c. a battle that most people do not know about. if you are stuck at the traffic light, you are in the right-hand lane, you turn to your right,
you can read the inscription on this monument to the soldiers that were killed. it is a monument to a mass grave of confederate soldiers that were killed outside fort stevens. it was moved when this church would moved in the early 20th century. it stands right off of georgia avenue which is a heavily traveled commuter road in and out of washington, d.c. consider what could've happened with the entire corps let loose in washington. the treasury was there. they could've burned the capital. the navy department which lincoln did not know had a ship waiting for him in the potomac to take them out of town. think about what could have happened the union cause had there been confederates running loose in the streets of
washington. don't forget, lincoln was fighting for his political life. it was the presidential election of 1864 just a few months away. lincoln barely got the republican nomination. he had to choose a democrat for his running mate, andrew johnson. lincoln's popularity was so low no one thought he would win the election. this would have killed any chances lincoln could have gotten reelected. think about this, too. the english and french were looking for an excuse to come in on the side of the confederacy. they did not have cnn or c-span, but they had newspapers. the coverage would not have been good for the union cause if headlines had flashed around the country and world that confederate troops were loose in the streets of washington, d.c. wallace was relieved of his
command after he lost that battle. within two weeks, grant had reinstated him and grant rights in his memoirs and everyone else knows about this agrees that had wallace not come down and block early, early very well could've caused havoc in washington. it changed the course of american history. think about it. lee's most important objective was to try to force grant to take troops from around richmond. grant did not want to do it. he waited until the last minute and finally did it. the troops went down from 137,000 at the end of june to like 70,000 two months later. this was grant's grand plan to end the war. it did work but not until april of 1865. if lee had not forced grant to
do this, i believe the war could have ended sooner. maybe much sooner. maybe six months sooner. it is a "what if." it can never be proven one way or the other. but it was a "what if" that came close to happening. it also goes to show nothing is inevitable in history. nothing is inevitable in the civil war. it did not have to come out the way it did. lots of other things had to do with it. but this one little piece of the puzzle was very important in the timing of the end of the civil war. if you want to remember this way, you can remember that -- one thing to remember is that early was one day late. early was late.